I once read a poem wishing the reader ‘enough hellos to be able to make it through the final goodbye.’ Until I met Sarah I thought that was a bit over-dramatic. After all, there are always more hellos in life than good-byes, right?
Our friendship began as it ended, abruptly and without either of us wanting it to happen. She was a student at the University of Minnesota. I was freelance writer. I was waiting for the world to give me what I had coming, she was working to earn her place in it.
I had taken a feature-writing job and I needed to profile several students to get the feel of student life. Someone put me in touch with Sarah and I suggested that we meet on campus for lunch.
She was already sitting on the bench where we had agreed to meet when I approached. To say that I was blown away is an understatement. She was beautiful. Her smile was so genuine that you could not help smiling back. It wasn’t until she rose to greet me that I noticed her cane and the limp that encompassed her right side. We talked for hours that day and every day in the months that followed.
I learned that, despite her nearly perfect English, she was here from Romania trying to finish her education. She spoke of her love for God and for her family and the people in Romania. We talked about books and politics and even sports. I was never so comfortable with a person in my life. She never mentioned what had caused the limp in her leg. I was so amazed by her presence and her outlook on life that I didn’t feel I had the right to ask.
Being a writer, I tend to be a cynic. I didn’t believe in the rules of the church and have thus never had much time for God. The conversations between Sarah and I would get very deep regarding religion. I respected the belief that she held but I did not feel the need to hold it as my own. Sarah never pushed, but she did challenge me. She never knew it, but on more than one occasion she actually changed my views on things.
All through our time together we convinced ourselves that we were not dating. Neither of us wanted the entanglements of being romantically involved at that point. Yet the forces that connected us seemed impossible to break apart. We spent all of our time together, taking in sights and places that I never before took time to notice.
One day towards the end of our time together, she sat me down at a table near campus. “You know you are a dear friend to me Marcus. I need you to know that I am leaving. I need to go back to Romania. The reason for my limp is a rare bone disease. My disease has progressed and there is not much time left. I must say goodbye to my family. I only hope that you will find peace in your life, peace that is only known through God, Marcus.”
I left our meeting that day awestruck by her courage and more than a little angry that she was being taken away from me. I was determined to change reality, to make her stay, and to make her well. In my anger I called out to God asking why she had to be taken away from me. In the silence of no response I suddenly realized that I had to make a choice. If God could take her away, God must be real. If God was as real as Sarah believed him to be, then it was my choice to believe.
I called Sarah and asked her to meet me and witness my decision. She came quickly, tears streaming down her face. After we prayed and I accepted God, she said that she had been praying for me all along.
We spent our last few days together enjoying our friendship, saddened that there could not be more. As she boarded the plane that would take her home, I wished her ‘Bon Voyage’, with luck on the journey.
The tears came quickly as I turned away, knowing that there were not enough hellos for this goodbye.
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